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MP wants answers over Mustang cash



don1 A LOCAL MP is now looking into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of boat building firm Mustang Marine in Pembroke Dock, the Herald can reveal.  

Simon Hart MP has this week met with both Stephen Hammond, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, and David Jones, Secretary of State of Wales, to express his concern that local firms, who are owed hundreds of thousands of pounds, will not get a penny after the firm went into administration. He has also contacted Alec Don, Chief Executive of Milford Haven Port Authority, seeking clarification regarding a number of points which he feels are a cause for concern. MHPA has confirmed they have replied to the MP. Mr Hart told The Herald: “Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) is being disingenuous about the Mustang affair. As a Trust Port, it has both a moral and legal responsibility to the community, including the creditors.” He added: “I understand that Alec Don and Andrew Jones were the directors who signed off Mustang Marine’s accounts for 2012, which correctly stated under accounting guidelines that the company was a subsidiary of MHPA. “It is for this reason that I find Alec Don’s comments that he cannot account for the different terminology used by the respective auditors of the Port Authority and Mustang Marine confusing. “As a Trust Port accounts should be accurate, informative and in particular transparent. “Suppliers and sub-contractors have stated that they took comfort from the fact that they were dealing with a Trust Port’s subsidiary.” Local firms are owed around £600,000. Simon Hart told The Herald: “The reality is that in some 22 months after the Port’s involvement and management control of Mustang Marine, the Authority has suffered a loss of £2.7m and other parties have lost up to a further £2m. Many people have lost their livelihood and local companies have suffered substantial losses from which it may take years to recover.” In a further development, documents submitted by Mustang’s administrators, Grant Thornton UK LLP, have revealed that losses at the company were due to the failure to achieve assumed margins on new build projects – as well as other disruption and delays. They also revealed that an unprecedented expenditure of £375,000 on refurbishing the firm’s Pembroke Dock offices – which were leased from MHPA – had placed huge pressure on the company’s cash flow. A lack of robust business procedures in quoting for contracts; sub-standard project and performance management and inadequate reporting were all ultimately causes of the firm’s demise, according to documents now lodged with Companies House. Last week, The Herald revealed that MHPA were unwilling to pay the debts owed by Mustang. Alec Don said that the port had “a responsibility but not a legal liability to the creditors.” But Simon Hart told The Herald: “In its accounts, the Port Authority described Mustang Marine as a subsidiary company – credit searches made by businesses supplying Mustang also confirmed this – but once the company entered into administration the Port decided to distance itself from the firm. “It is questionable that when the rain started coming in, they took a step back”, he added. The Herald can reveal that what money is left is quickly dwindling – Grant Thornton is being paid on average £253 per hour to administer the firm and have so far billed hundreds of hours. There are also questions being asked this week about £103,000 which was paid by the struggling firm to directors by way of fees before it collapsed – this is a similar figure to the £104,290 currently owed to Mustang employees. Last week The Herald confirmed that HSBC Bank Plc and Mustang Director Huw Thomas Lewis, who are owed £274,000 and £296,000 respectively, are likely to be paid out as their loans to the company are secured by way of a debenture. Unsecured creditors are owed £3,143,725.


 The Herald put questions to Alec Don, chief executive, Milford Haven Port Authority  

THE PEMBROKESHIRE HERALD met with Alec Don, MHPA Chief Executive, at his office yesterday (Thursday).  

The Herald put it to Alec Don that as a Trust Port, the Authority had a responsibility to all stakeholders: including port users, employees and the local community over Mustang, and the trail of debt left behind. He replied: “We do not feel there is a moral or legal responsibility but at the same time, as a Trust Port, we want to be on standby to do what we can to help. We have done masses to assist including giving extra time to pay rent.” “We will be putting money into a community interest company which will be operated by Haven Marine Services Limited. The aim of the CIC will be to help the creditors of Mustang get back some of the money they are owed.” Asked if the Mustang project was too much of a gamble for the Port, Alec Don said: “Mustang was a joint venture with MHPA. We wanted it to succeed. We wanted to support them as a business that was trading around the port.” He added: “The reason for the failure of the company in my view was due to the company trying to build two boats – both the first of their class – at the same time. Those projects went wrong. In fact, the whole Mustang project was a hell of a challenge.” Alec Don said: “It is easy to make comments after the event with the help of hindsight. What was clear is that the customers of Mustang felt that the products it was delivering were of the highest quality.”


Alec Don said: “The new Mustang company – Mustang Marine Ltd – will now have to prove themselves in the market. But, they are led by a strong management team. Kevin Lewis (A former director of Mustang Marine (Wales) Ltd) is working with the new company, and he is the person who brings most knowledge from the old business to the new business. There are new people and new capital. There are new investors to bring strength. The new chairman of Mustang is Mark Meade, who has strong commercial skills.” He added: “We cannot pay Mustangs debts because we have a responsibility to the rest of the business. We have volatile earning streams. Earnings are going up and down. We need to maintain a strong balance sheet. We cannot honour the aspirations of the Port if we act as charity.” “We want to do what we can to support businesses in the port, but we have to remember that we are building the haven’s future, where the future is unpredictable.” Andy Jones from MHPA, also at the meeting said: “We are here to ensure the stewardship of the port for future generations, and this is something that we have to do diligently.” Mr. Don did not wish to comment about reports that MHPA had sent a report to the Department of Transport following the collapse of Mustang. But he did say: “The DoT, as an important stakeholder, would be interested on the impact the collapse of Mustang might have in the Port.” He also said that the reasons why £103,000 was paid to directors of Mustang as it was losing money was now a question for the administrators. Alec Don concluded the meeting by saying: “I bitterly regret that Mustang went down. We lost £2.7m. We are pleased though, that new businesses have emerged safeguarding 40 jobs in and around the haven.” He also said that a reference in the MHPA annual report to Mustang as ‘subsidiary’ was actually a mistake, and it was not meant in the “true legal sense”.

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Approval recommended for dockyard plans



A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week.

Despite many objections from heritage organisations, Council planning officers recommend the development’s approval.

However, the Planning Committee will only indicate whether it is ‘minded to approve’ the proposal instead of giving it the go-ahead.

The Welsh Government has called in the application for decision by the next Welsh Government minister responsible for planning and infrastructure developments.

That means the Welsh Government will consider the Report presented to the Committee and weigh it against the objections received.


The application is to develop a brownfield site within the former Royal Dockyard.

It seeks outline planning permission for the demolition or part demolition and infill of various buildings and structures, modification of existing slipways, erection of buildings and ancillary development. 

The development is intended for port-related activities, including the manufacture of marine energy devices, boat manufacture, repair and erection of plant.

The application is for outline planning permission. All matters relating to access, appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale are reserved for consideration as part of reserved matters applications. In practice, as many councils – including Pembrokeshire – have discovered, once outline planning is granted, reserved applications tend to proceed despite potential negative impacts.

A similar situation arose with Milford Haven Port Authority’s hotel development at Milford Marina, where councillors’ concerns were largely overruled by the existence of outline planning permission for the development.

Part of the proposal would see the former graving dock and timber pond infilled, the part demolition of existing slipways, and some buildings on site.

Both the graving dock and timber pond are Grade II listed. Buildings near the development are also listed, including the iconic Sunderland flying boat hangars.

The existing caisson gate currently in situ at the dock’s southern end would be removed and conserved. It is unique in Wales and a rare example. The planning report states that the caisson gate would remain within the marine environment without development and deteriorate. 

The development would include a new ‘super slipway’ built over the land extending into the River Cleddau and the construction of massive new industrial sheds to accommodate new marine technology.


The planning report claims the facilities erected will support anywhere between 288 and 975 full-time equivalent jobs in Pembrokeshire and make a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, the report also notes that the numbers of jobs claimed cannot be corroborated.

This proposal is linked to the establishment of the Marine Energy Test Areas (META), the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone (PDZ). These collectively comprise the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. 

The project forms part of the Swansea Bay City Deal to facilitate the next generation of marine renewable energy technology.

Companies who could potentially gain from the development have signalled their support from the proposal.Although their enthusiasm is predictable, the economic potential for local businesses cannot be ignored.


However, a raft of objections also exists.

The Council received representations from, among others: The Victorian Society; The Georgian Group; Hywel Dda University Health Board;  Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre; Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust; Pembroke Civic Trust; Naval Dockyards Society; The Commodore Trust; Ridgway History Group.

Not all of those organisations objected to the principle of development. For example, Hywel Dda expressed concern about the potential effect on access to South Pembs Hospital and patient care. However, most criticised the impact on the historic environment of the Royal Dockyard. Individual objections also expressed the same concerns.

The Naval Dockyard Society points out that the Dockyard construction was the reason for Pembroke Dock’s creation as a town. Without it, the town would not exist.

The Society continues: ‘The proposed scheme would severely damage Pembroke Dock Conservation Area and crucial listed buildings. 

‘The Grade II* Graving Dock would be infilled and partially built over, the Grade II Timber Pond infilled and built over, and the Grade II Building Slips Nos 1 and 2 partially demolished and removed. It would also be detrimental to the adjacent Grade II Carr Jetty setting, which adds to the group value of these threatened structures at Pembroke Dockyard.

‘These structures are the last and most important features of the magnificent and unique assemblage of thirteen slips, graving dock and timber pond constructed and functioning 1809–1926. 

‘Pembroke Dock specialised in building warships during the transition from wood to iron and steel, sail to steam and turbines. 

‘While the eastern slips were sacrificed in 1979 for the Irish ferry terminal and the deep-water berth Quay 1, we now live in a more responsible era, when significant community assets merit planning protection.

‘The Royal Dockyard established at Pembroke Dock from 1809 was unique: the only one in Wales, the only one on the west coast of Britain, and the only one created solely as a shipbuilding facility. 

‘It built over 260 warships for the Royal Navy, including many of the most prestigious warships of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as five royal yachts. Many of these vessels were built on the two large slipways at the western end of the yard threatened by the current development proposal’.


William Gannon represents Pembroke Dock Town Council on the Milford Haven Port Authority. Mr Gannon recently hosted an online event that reviewed the application and gave local people the chance to express their views.

We asked him what the public had to say about the plans.

Listening to the community: David Gannon (photo credit: David Steel)

William Gannon told us: “The feeling of the Community following our Zoom Meeting was that we welcome the 1800 jobs and the £63 Million of investment that the Pembroke Dock Marine Project has promised. 

“However, the Community is concerned about the Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock’s loss, which will be buried beneath the new slipway. Both The Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock are Grade 2 Star listed heritage assets.

“The Community are also concerned about the size of the two ‘super sheds’ that may be built. It is felt that these sheds are both too large and ugly, and they will damage the appearance of the Dockyard and The Haven and could damage Pembroke Docks plans to develop Tourism in and around the Dockyard.

“Our Community is looking to strike a balance between the need to develop the Dockyard and to preserve our Heritage Assets. 

“We believe that we can do this by working with The Port to develop a solution that allows for both.”

The Port Authority plans to infill the dock and pond in such a way as to preserve the structures and excavate them in the future. Once they are built over, however, the circumstances that would be possible or even likely are unclear. 

The Port Authority also proposes to use digital media to provide an ‘augmented reality’ experience to show visitors what the Royal Dockyard looked like before its development.

The Port says that part of the land, the Carriage Drive, would be enhanced and restored under its plans for the site.
The balance between preserving heritage and creating future jobs in one of its pet project areas is one the Welsh Government will wrestle with on this application and others.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears



A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town



SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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